Mobile phones join the rural radio mix

pcworld

“A little over a year ago I found myself sitting in the San Francisco offices of an international humanitarian NGO. Their main focus at the time was a major human-rights treaty, and they wanted advice about mobilizing rural communities to lobby their governments to ratify it. There was clearly great potential for a mobile phone-based solution, and they wanted me to help them understand how text messaging – and FrontlineSMS in particular – could be of use.

So, it came as something of a surprise when I recommended they look more closely at rural radio instead. Although I’m a great fan of mobile phone technology, it isn’t by default the best tool for reaching out to rural communities. Radio – far from being outdated and irrelevant – remains a powerful, relevant and far-reaching medium. Unrivalled, in fact.

Radio stations existed in Africa long before many of its countries reached independence. Over the last twenty to thirty years, however, liberation of the airwaves in many of these countries has opened the door to a new wave of broadcasters including commercial, private, community and public radio stations. This expansion has created some new and exciting opportunities.”

kiwanja’s latest PC World article looks at the potential of mobile phones and rural radio stations to jointly deliver relevant, timely and useful information to rural populations in developing countries, and allow listeners to engage with radio programmes in a new way. Projects highlighted include initiatives in Africa by Farm Radio International and Developing Radio Partners.

Head on over to the PC World website for the full article.

Sitcoms+SMS: Tackling HIV/AIDS in the DRC

In this, the first of a series of guest posts on how FrontlineSMS is being used around the world, Becky McLaughlin – Marketing Director at Rien que la Vérité – talks about their current use of the platform, and the impact it has had on their work

“Based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rien que la Vérité was born in 2006 when some of the finest musicians in the Congo united to produce a CD of songs speaking against the spread of HIV/AIDS. Since 2006, the Rien que la Vérité platform has produced 14 music videos, a documentary, and an all-day stadium concert. In its present incarnation, Rien que la Vérité is touching the lives of the people of the Congo through their television screens as they follow the lives of a Kinois family on a locally-produced TV drama.

rqlv_family_ad

Rien que la Vérité – the TV series – launched nationally on November 30th, 2008 and first implemented FrontlineSMS in the airing of its second episode on December 14th. Each episode broadcast is accompanied by short talk-show segments during which a host introduces music clips, talks to well-known musicians and actors, and interviews representatives from local NGOs and organizations whose message dovetails with a theme introduced in the show.

During the December 14th show, the audience was invited to participate by sending an SMS with the name of their favorite character. The responses were collected using FrontlineSMS. This simple first step allowed Rien que la Vérité to test the software and to begin an exploration of our audience’s perceptions and preferences. As the show continues we plan to introduce more simple polls that will help tailor the show to the audience’s tastes, and give viewers a sense of ownership of the program.

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This, however, is the most basic use we foresee. We are now launching a drive to support fan clubs, so that people who watch the show can find each other, meet, and talk about the show and the topics it introduces – a process that will begin to normalize conversation about HIV/AIDS. We’ll use FrontlineSMS to collect contact information from interested fans, then broadcast messages with times and locations for local club gatherings. We also intend to use FrontlineSMS in our research for measuring the impact the show has on our target audience. We’ll send out questions via SMS to fans before and after each show, measuring any changes in attitude, knowledge, or self-reported practices due to exposure to the show’s messaging.

FrontlineSMS will be a critical tool in our goal to entertain and educate. Like its television format, Rien que la Vérité’s future development must remain grassroots, and FrontlineSMS is an excellent vehicle for this.”

Becky McLaughlin
Marketing Director
Rien que la Vérité
www.abcd-laverite.com

Earth and sun and moon

charger

Well, not quite. But it is another personal charging option to add to the solar and hand-crank mix (thanks to Guy Yeomans for pointing this in my direction over lunch last week).

The HYmini is a cool compact wind-powered charger with an internal lithium ion battery (there’s also an optional solar panel and hand-crank attachment). They’re still a little pricey, coming in at around the $50 mark, but I can imagine as they get cheaper seeing them attached to bikes – the perfect power solution for Bodafones and other bicycle-centric phone service providers in developing countries (photos, below, from kiwanja’s Mobile Gallery).

bikes1

Motion chargers would be the final piece of the jigsaw, but are still a little way off. Trevor Baylis prototyped a pair of “electric shoes” back in 2001, walking across the Namib desert to prove that you could charge a small battery – enough to power a radio or mobile phone – through the action of walking. Nothing may have come of that, but he clearly got other people thinking. Expect announcements later this year.